The Shade Tree

Greystone. Aug. 2023. 32p. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781778400186.
K-Gr 3–A beautifully depicted parable about the cost of greed and the joys of generosity. A traveler comes upon a gorgeously green tree where the townspeople rest and play under its shade. The rich man that owns the land on which the tree stands demands everyone leave, until the traveler offers to pay for its shade. The greedy rich man agrees. As the day darkens and the shade lengthens, the traveler dances and jumps in the shade of his newly purchased tree. He eventually somersaults onto the rich man’s property, completely covered now in the shade, and claims it as his. The outsmarted rich man begrudgingly leaves, and the traveler shares the shade with all of the townspeople. With spare, direct language Mixter’s translation of Lee’s retelling of a Korean tale of comeuppance is reminiscent of “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” also a story centering a rich and foolish man. Lee’s signature art with lots of white space and black silhouettes is the perfect fit for this narrative. The striking emerald green of the tree projects life and joy against the stark background, with the little black figures of the villagers prancing under it. As the sun sets, the tree and its shade are presented in a deep violet that spreads as the traveler pirouettes toward the rich man’s great house in a three-page gatefold that adds to the story’s dramatic effect. The shade is an active character in this work, and the traveler follows its lead. The impeccable design, striking illustrations, and effective page turns make this a book that readers, educators, and creators will admire. This would also be a perfect choice for language arts curricula.
VERDICT This is a work of art that excels on many levels. Purchase for all picture bookshelves.

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